Florida election officials working to keep voting rolls accurate had Rep. Dennis Baxley on their side Tuesday.
The Ocala Republican took issue with skeptical questioning by Democrats as Secretary of State Ken Detzner and Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews updated the House Subcommittee on Ethics and Elections on Project Integrity, the Department of State’s initiative with county election supervisors to make sure only eligible citizens are on Florida’s voting rolls.
That’s what the law requires, Detzner said.
“If any ineligible voter is permitted to cast a vote, it potentially cancels the vote of an eligible voter,” he told the committee. “We cannot pick and choose what laws to uphold.
Subcommittee Democrats, including Rep. Alan Williams of Tallahassee, repeatedly questioned the need for such security, noting neither Matthews nor David Stafford, Escambia County’s elections supervisor and president of the State Association of Supervisors of Elections, had hard numbers to back up complaints that non-citizens were illegally voting in the Sunshine State.
Stafford acknowledged that he had only “anecdotal” evidence of election supervisors reporting questions about verifying eligible voters for questions of citizenship, but noted that members of the voting public often were surprised to learn there weren’t stricter safeguards in place against non-citizens voting.
In a separate exchange, Williams questioned Matthews about the amount of time it would take for state and federal offices to review their records to see whether a would-be voter is really eligible
That’s where Baxley stepped in.
“I don’t understand the line of questioning,” he said.
If there are questions about any potential voters eligibility to vote, he said, all the voter needs to do is produce the proof he needs.
“If I’m driving down the street and I get pulled over, it’s not up to the police officer to prove I don’t have a driver’s license,” he said. “It’s up to me to prove I do.”
“Don’t let anybody intimidate you,” he told Matthews. “I hope you continue to do that job until the books close on registration.”
He reiterated the point in a brief interview after the committee meeting, noting that officials like Matthews and Stafford were being questioned over implementing laws passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott to protect the integrity of the state’s voting rolls.
“The real question is the government’s judgment that we ought to have a clean file,” he said. “I think It’s obvious, and it’s something we should be doing all the time.’
As to potential voters whose eligibility is questioned? No different from drivers whose permission to operate a motor vehicle is questioned: Produce the documents.
“Here we are agonizing over it and it’s easily remedied,” he said.
“It should be easy to vote – and hard to cheat.”
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